PeaceBang is a very happy minister right now. Kind of sickeningly happy, actually. So grateful to God for all her blessings, or in less traditional language, FREAKING PSYCHED about the wonderful energy, spirit and inspiration of our Unitarian Universalist General Assembly.
In all seriousness, I have been hollering the same message for fifteen years. When I started hollering I was regarded as an obnoxious kid who didn’t know any better. Then I became part of a small obnoxious group of kids who obviously didn’t know any better. Then I evolved into a mature minister who was still regarded as obnoxious by many but appreciated by enough that I dared to keep hollering. I felt God was with me, so being considered obnoxious and disliked by people I didn’t much respect in the first place didn’t bother me.
I kept at it. I was called to a beautiful congregation that I loved serving, but in a lonely and isolated enough location that God had lots of quiet time to whisper in my ear, and I had enough time and space to hammer out on-line manifesto after manifesto at the desk I’m sitting at right now, in my little Kermit Green study.
Eventually, I established an extended virtual community. That’s where you came in. And as the years went by, I became more and more nurtured by that community that augmented the positive, joyful experience of parish ministry I was having with my local community. The hurt I had about being rejected and even reviled within my larger denomination became less and less. I started meeting other Unitarian Universalists and lay and ordained people from other faith traditions who felt as I did. I made a broader kinship circle of friends in the Spirit. I went back to school and got to study more, and to teach in my seminary. Eventually the very same community that had previously told me to shut up and/or please leave the denomination began to invite me to speak, and to teach them. I got happier, healthier and more resilient. I ended dysfunctional relationships. I found better ones. I gave myself over to full immersion in the life of faith, spending much more time in prayer than I had ever allowed myself before. I stopped worrying about what I don’t do well and started partnering with people who do those things well, so I wouldn’t have to try to do them badly. I listened to the voice of the holy more and more, and began to actually, really, trust it.
But most very year I would go to my General Assembly and limp away feeling depressed, discouraged and depleted. Sure, there were some good moments and it was always great to see friends and colleagues, but the overall culture of our movement seemed to me so extraordinarily dysfunctional I began to believe that I might be the last generation of clergy to serve in parish ministry as we now know it.
And you know what? That actually turned out to be the case, but not in a tragic way. It’s really sad that God doesn’t seem to be that invested in real estate, and that we may not be able to afford our beautiful historic buildings for another generation. But that won’t be the end. Church life is changing and — miraculously enough — the Unitarian Universalist Association seems to be AWARE OF THAT! and ready to address the change not with strategies for growth and rescue, but with strategies for mission, giving ourselves over to the work we find in the world, and not putting our energy into the obviously and rapidly dying “attractional model.”
I attended a fantastic workshop this past week at GA where they showed this little video on the missional church model. Use it. I have been committed to this model for a long time but not known how to guide a congregation to understand or embrace it. Now I’m getting clearer and ready to introduce these ideas to a new congregation. It is a good time for my transition to a new church.
So much good is happening in my denomination! So much less terminal uniqueness. So much more humility, sense of humor, and agreement that we are going to stop being hijacked by the nay-sayers, the perma-victims and their false idols. The beauty of the social media revolution is that all of us have instant ways to share what’s going on where we are with each other, and therefore to identify patterns in paralyzing behaviors. There is far more transparency than ever before.
It was a joy to meet so many of you face to face at GA. I always do get shy when someone says, “Oh my gosh, you’re PeaceBang!” but I’m getting better at it. Because I’m just very happy to meet you and hug you and talk with you or have coffee with you and encourage you as you have encouraged me.
I will TRY to check in more later, but I gotta tell you that I am closing on my first house on Friday. For the next month or so I will be in the throes of re-location, driving to my new home an hour north of where I am now, supervising California Closets and painters and contractors before the move date of July 21. I will be packing an incredibly cluttered 4-bedroom parsonage and continuing to give lots of things away, and all that will take a lot of time and attention.
If you have been reading me for any number of years and been ministered to by my work online (or in person), I encourage you to make a financial gift through Pay Pal by clicking the “Make a Gift” button at the top of the blog. I just think it would be really neat to have your energy and life force in the very walls surrounding me as I set up la Casa de PeaceBang in the coming weeks. If you’re looking for a symbolic amount, $38 buys a gallon of paint!